Pot Proposal (EDITORIAL)

July 22, 2004

EDITORIAL, Detroit Free Press

A test of legalized marijuana use for medical purposes -- to help control pain and nausea, in particular -- is overdue in Michigan. Unfortunately, the proposal on Detroit's ballot Aug. 3 has murky areas that make it the wrong tool.

Proposal M would amend the city code to allow use of marijuana under the direction of a 'physician or other licensed medical professional.' But the law cited to define the 'others' covers all state-licensed health professions and several sub-specialties.

That includes chiropractors, optometrists and podiatrists; psychologists, counselors, social workers and family therapists; audiologists; all nurses and nursing home administrators, and veterinarians.

Proponents say they are confident that only those with prescription power -- primarily medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine and dentists -- would take advantage of the code change. They say laws on controlled substances, state licensing rules for each profession and the risk of malpractice claims would prevent other health professionals from giving guidance on marijuana use. On its face, though, the proposal's language is just too broad to make the case for supervised medical marijuana with any integrity.

In other aspects, the proposal is quite limited. It creates an exemption for medical possession and use of marijuana and associated paraphernalia; it does not directly address purchase or gifts. As a Detroit initiative, it binds only the city police. Other laws will continue to govern county, state and federal agencies when they work in the city.

Detroiters who believe in appropriate use of medical marijuana deserve a more tightly written amendment to the city code. Until that proposal appears, a NO vote is in order.

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